DAVIE ‘HAS FIGHT ON HIS HANDS’: Former BBC producer and news executive Robin Aitken (£ Telegraph 8/9), in a wide -ranging assessment of the scale of the challenge facing new director general Tim Davie, argued that the task ahead was ‘formidable’ because ‘every BBC employee, from the most junior researcher to the most senior editor, is subject to the same, massively coercive, group think’, and asserted there was BBC groupthink on key issues such as the re-election of Donald Trump. Mr Aitken said that Mr Davie must thus need to find journalists sympathetic to right-wing views and promote them through the ranks. In that connection, the effort to tempt former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil – who had been treated ‘with bad form’ by Tony Hall – was good news, but the corporation needed more like him. Mr Aitken also argued that the scale of the bias problem was also illustrated by Richard Sambrook, a former BBC news chief who had been appointed by Lord Hall to review the use of tweets and other social media by BBC staff. He noted that Mr Sambrook had become a professor of journalism at Cardiff University and there had taken enthusiastically to twitter himself, arguing that Brexit was ‘utterly stupid’. Mr Aitken said:
‘No doubt these sentiments go down well in the Senior Common Room in Cardiff but they hardly suggest Sambrook is an impartial observer. Is he going to call-out errant BBC journalists for tweeting the very same views he holds?
‘Interestingly Cardiff’s School of Journalism often provides research data claiming to prove that the BBC is, indeed, impartial. The BBC and its fellow-travellers in academia are happy collaborators in a mutual back-scratching exercise. What this demonstrates is that the BBC has many powerful allies and they will be vocal and active in their resistance to change. To succeed, Mr Davie will have to swim against the tide of “educated” opinion across the board.’
‘Mr Davie has made all the right noises in his first week in the job; he has used his new high office to signal the course he wants to chart. More difficult than talking about it, though, will be effecting enough real change to satisfy the circling critics. He has a fight on his hands.’
BBC EUROPE EDITOR ‘BREACHED EDITORIAL GUIDELINES: Guido Fawkes reported (7/9) that the BBC had partially upheld a complaint against Europe editor Katya Adler for publishing a tweet in which she had branded cabinet minister Michael Gove ‘delusional’ and had misquoted him in terms of his opinion on a key phase of negotiations with the EU. The article noted that the executive complaints unit (ECU) had said Ms Adler had gone beyond the editorial guidelines’ licence for correspondents to use ‘professional judgments, rooted in evidence’.
DAVIE ‘SHOULD EXAMINE OTHER FORMS OF BBC FINANCING’: Holly Fleet (Daily Express 8/9) said that John Sergeant, the BBC’s former chief political correspondent, had warned director general Tim Davie that he must consider forms of funding other than the licence fee, even if it meant a loss of income, and that he should accept that non-payment of the current fee should be decriminalised.
MUNCHETTY ‘MOONLIGHTING AGAIN’: Amie Gordon (Daily Mail 8/9) said that BBC Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty – who was warned in August about accepting paid promotional work from the car manufacturer Aston Martin – had been ‘reminded again’ of the danger of potential conflicts of interest after taking part in similar work for the Natwest bank. Ms Gordon said the videos, titled In Conversation With. . . , included chats with high profile guests such as former Labour politician Ed Balls, the captain of England’s cricket team, Eoin Morgan, and perfume entrepreneur Jo Malone. Ms Gordon reported that the plugs for the bank had been recorded before Tim Davie – who had warned staff about such ‘moonlighting’ in his inaugural address to staff – had assumed his new role on September 1. She said that ‘BBC insiders’ were furious with Munchetty, who earned £195,000 a year. A BBC spokesperson had said:
‘Since this event, Naga has been reminded of the risk of conflict of interest when undergoing external engagements. We are developing clearer direction in this area as part of our wider work on impartiality and will have more to say on that in due course.’